"History of Dance in American Movies,
Television & Broadway"
Successors to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Marge and Gower Champion were the famed dancing duo of the 50s on Broadway, MGM musicals, night clubs, and television. Born in Hollywood, Marge grew up in the center of the dance and movie world. Her father Ernest Belcher was the dean of the West Coast dancing masters and staged many dance sequences for the movies. He trained Shirley Temple, Cyd Charisse, Gwen Verdon, and Marge’s classmate Gower whom she met when they were twelve.
Marge Champion began her career with Walt Disney as the live action model for Snow White, the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio, and the Hippopotamus Ballerina in the “Dance of the Hours” for Fantasia, which she also choreographed. She appeared in The Castles with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and on Broadway in Beggar’s Holiday, famous for its Duke Ellington/John Latouche score.
During their collaboration, Marge and Gower Champion staged the dances for the Broadway musical revues Lend An Ear and Make A Wish. Their film appearances included Mr. Music with Bing Crosby, Show Boat, Lovely To Look At, That’s Dancing! and That’s Entertainment, Part II, and on television Toast of the Town, The Dinah Shore Show, and The Marge and Gower Champion Show. In the late 60s Marge appeared in two movies which have achieved cult-classic status, The Party and The Swimmer.
After their divorce in 1973, Ms. Champion co-authored two books, Catch the New Wind and God is A Verb and was the choreographer for Whose Life Is It Anyway?, The Day of the Locust, and Queen of the Stardust Ballroom for which she received an Emmy Award. With her late husband, film director Boris Segal, Marge continued her work in choreography and as a dialogue coach for Masada, The Diary of Anne Frank, and The Awakening Land. Directing and choreography credits include Stepping Out, Lute Song, and Kiss Me Kate at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. In 1991 Marge received the Legends of the Dance Award at Florida State’s Triple Crown Ballroom Dance Championship, the largest ballroom dance championship in America, and in 2004 was inducted into the National Dance Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York.
Marge Champion served a nine-year stint as a member of the nominating committee of the Tony Awards and in 1997 Massachusetts honored her with its Commonwealth Award, citing her “leadership as a true patron of the arts, not only as a financial donor, but equally important, in lending her national reputation, time and vision to...cultural organizations in the Berkshires and to young artists at the beginning of their careers.” In 1984 when Marge’s son Blake was killed in a car accident, she donated an eighteenth century barn from her Stockbridge property to Jacobs Pillow where she is now a director emerita. The refurbished Blake’s Barn holds exhibits, lectures and presentations, as well as Jacobs Pillow’s box office and vast dance archives.
Currently Marge and her dance partner Donald Saddler appear together in a program where they share their extraordinary knowledge about the history of musical comedy dance on Broadway, in the movies and on television. They even reprise the elegant ballroom duet which they performed to critical acclaim in the 2001 Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies.
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